In 2013, the latest year I could find publication information, Bowker reported that 304,912 books had been published in the U.S. alone (including new titles and re-editions). It seems evident that the sheer number of books now available means that no person can keep up with the market. Even if you only read a certain genre or are an expert in a certain field and limit yourself to new scholarship in that area, even if you only try to read the new works published in a given year, let alone all the other major works previously published, you are unlikely to be able to do so. Still, we pressure ourselves, and others, to have read every major release, to know every new book.
It almost seems as if our attitudes towards reading have not changed with the times and we continue to imagine that it’s actually feasible for an individual to read every important book over their lifetime. Perhaps one could in the Middle Ages when texts were scarce and the price limited them to elite individuals who had the time for study and leisure. In today’s world, however, there are plenty of factors that mean a person will not have read all the new releases or will not be bragging about having reached 200 books on their Goodreads Reading Challenge.
Even supposing one had the inclination to want to attempt to read all the major new releases in a year (perhaps limiting this to major YA releases or even just major YA fantasy releases), the average individual is unlikely to be able to achieve this goal for obvious reasons. Many people hold jobs, attend university, have a family, and have various social commitments. Some people hold jobs and attend university and have a family and fulfill social commitments all at the same time. It’s a lot easier to churn through a larger number of books when you have fewer responsibilities or feel less stressed. Reading fewer books does not necessarily mean that you are not as good a reader as another individual–it just means you have different life circumstances.
Maybe you don’t have a job that requires more than 40 hours per week from you, you don’t have a family to care for, and you don’t have a stressful school workload at the moment. You still may not choose to dedicate your life to reading books. Why? Because you enjoy other things, too! You may like to bake, to go to concerts, to go hiking, to work on your novel, to learn a new language, to sing silly songs to your cat. Your other interests will take away from your reading time. That’s okay. You should feel that you are able to have other interests without being ashamed of your low Goodreads Challenge goal.
Access to Books
Some individuals don’t have the same access to books as others. Even if you don’t buy all your books and choose to go the library (assuming you have one close by that you can get to), your library may not stock all the latest releases that you want. You could try to get some through ILL or you may just decide to search for some lesser-known gems. Whatever solution you try is okay. It does not matter if you haven’t yet read that new book everyone else is talking about.
We still talk to each other as if it’s possible or desirable to have read all the books, but the reality is that no person has the ability to keep up anymore. And, even if a person tried, that might mean they would have to ignore other aspects of their life such as their job, family, or hobbies. But there’s no real need to have read every latest release. Reading isn’t meant to be a competition or some sort of test of dedication or intellect. Reading is meant to be enjoyable. If you’re enjoying your reading, you have nothing to apologize for.